School Board looks to fund goals


WESTFIELD – Competing for state or federal grant funding is a routine process, as municipal government seeks to augment its limited financial resources needed to attain goals and objectives.
The Westfield School Department has a number of strategic goals in an attempt to improve learning in schools across the district.
One goal is to identify students with literacy challenges so those children can receive additional reading instruction and coaching while still in the early elementary grades and, hopefully, overcome that initial deficiency, eventually “catching up” with the proficiency of their peers.
Another goal of the district is focused on helping teachers to improve their instruction in the classroom, a process of professional development through peer coaching.
The district recently received two state grants focused on both of those goals.
School Superintendent Suzanne Scallion recently reported on the two grants, while requesting the School Committee’s approval of additional funding for two programs being funded through them, the Keys to Literacy and the Bay State Reading Initiative.
The problem is that two different groups within the district applied for the same grant money which has a cap of $43,000, sufficient funding for one but not both programs.
Scallion asked the school board to approve the use of an additional $43,000 from school choice.
Eileen Jachym, director of 21st century learning, said the Keys to Literacy is a program aimed at improving adolescent literacy through on-line programs which is a research-based, highly effective professional development programs that improve comprehension for students in grades 4 through 12.
“Its professional development which provides coaching techniques to train the trainer to sustain the program,” Jachym said.
Scallion said the Keys to Literacy “moves us toward the staff development model of training in-house.”
The Bay State Reading Initiative, provided through the Bay State Reading Institute, is a program designed to improve literacy among students, providing intervention for struggling readers, a literacy coach for each school, regular testing and assessment.
The School Committee voted to approve the School Choice funding request following a discussion of the current financial status of the funding source. The District receives that funding through the state’s Chapter 70 program.
The district receives about $5,000 for out-of-district students attending school in Westfield. That money is deducted from the student’s home district’s Chapter 70 funding and allocated to the district receiving that student.
Committee Vice Chairman Kevin Sullivan asked if funding the literacy programs would substantially deplete the School Choice account because $1 million from that account was allocated to the school district’s operation budget. In the past school choice funding has been used for educational programs, technology and emergency repairs of buildings and equipment.
“My only concern is that we’re using School Choice so early in the (school) year,” Sullivan said.
Chief Financial Officer John Kane said the account, after the budget allocation, has about $400,000 in available funding and that the city receives quarterly Chapter 70 School Choice payments from the state to replenish that account.

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